League leaders FC Meralco Manila and Ceres-Negros FC settled with a 0-0 draw last November 24 at the PFF National Training Center in Carmona Cavite. The draw was a first for both squads who are currently on top of the PFL table.
There were very few chances in the match for both teams who were cautious in preparing for the semis. The first attempt on goal came on the 2nd minute when Jinggoy Valmayor intercepted a bad pass from thirty yards before unleashed a shot the was way over the bar.
Meralco owned most of the chances as the home’s squad capitalized on Ceres’ slow build up to threaten the backline. Ashley Flores was the main recipient of the counterattacks but centerbacks in Super Herrera and Josh Grommen were there to control the play.
The hosts created opportunities near the halftime whistle but Valmayor and company could not find the target. The half ended with an uneventful 0-0 scoreline.
The Sparks continued to threaten by the hour mark after a foul by Bienvenido Marañon on Franco de la Torre in a dangerous position. Taj Minniecon however foiled the resulting free kick after it was over the crossbar.
Alvin Sarmiento would have a try on goal after he slid into the box in the 67th. The wingbacks attempt was however tamed by the Ceres keeper. Valmayor earned a chance minutes later when a clearance from a corner fell to him at the edge of the box. His attempt however was just a foot wide.
The best chance for Manila came in the 80th minute after a long drive from Sarmiento reached an unmarked Valmayor in front of goal. The striker however mishit the ball which looped over the bar.
Roland Muller produced three fines saves three minutes from time to earn his eight clean sheet of the season. The Ceres keeper punched out a brilliant free kick from Curt Dizon before stopping two successive shots off a corner.
A straight red was given to Diego Fornea in injury time after an altercation with Jeffrey Christaens who also earned a yellow. The match ended with both squads earning a point from the goalless affair.
“It was a very interesting game,” said Ceres Coach Risto Vidakovic. “We came from two games in Ilocos, it was very important that we keep the players safe without injuries. I think nobody get injured today so it’s a very successful day for us,” he added.
The Ceres mentor already has one eye on the final regular season match versus Global and is much aware of the constraints leading to Cebu.
“Some players, they will be suspended for the next game so we will see who will play there because it is not easy to for anybody. We will go there with what we have left and try to compete there,” Vidakovic added.
The final regular season match is set on November 28 with Ceres-Negros traveling to Cebu. A draw will ensure first place while a loss would mean second in the classification.
Photos from FC Meralco Manila/Bob Guerrero